No hangover for Blackhawks' Crawford
Even for a team like the Blackhawks that has won two Stanley Cups in four seasons, the faithful can always find reasons to worry.
For example, the always-brilliant penalty kill of the last couple years has allowed 7 goals in eight games and is 28th in the NHL at 73 percent.
Of course, it should be noted that the always-terrible power play of the last few years has been a bit better this year with 6 goals in eight games, and at 20 percent it's up to 13th in the league.
There's the matter of replacing departed players with youngsters, getting aging veterans healthy, keeping aging veterans rested, getting the stars energized and in general finding a spark for a team that looks at times asleep on the ice while still managing a snappy 5-1-2 start.
There are all those topics of conversation flushing their way through the system with the schedule in its infancy, but there's one name you haven't heard much.
Of all the people with reasons to get off to a slow start, no one had more built-in excuses than Corey Crawford.
He had the short summer and the constant party.
He got a new goalie coach.
He received an invite to Team Canada's Olympic orientation camp.
And he still faced questions about whether he was a true No. 1 goaltender even after he was the team's best player when the Hawks won that thing called the Stanley Cup in June.
Any of those would be enough to knock a goaltender off balance, and that doesn't even include a shocking six-year contract extension worth $36 million, a deal that would leave any player feeling the pressure.
But Crawford has been terrific. There hasn't been a better Hawk through eight games, with the possible exception of Brandon Saad or Niklas Hjalmarsson.
Crawford looks to be in great shape mentally and physically. He's been very aggressive and extremely confident, and while fans and media search for reasons to worry, no one seems to be talking about Crawford.
At least, not yet. He hasn't been noticed, always a good sign for a goaltender.
"I don't even think about it," Crawford insists. "Doesn't matter. It's a team game. I honestly believe for a goalie to do well you need a lot of help in front of you. This league is just too good to depend on only the goalie every game."
Crawford is 4-1-2 with a 2.07 goals-against and .922 save percentage, not far off his regular-season numbers of last season. More important, his poise is palpable.
"I'm seeing the puck great," Crawford said. "I'm getting a lot of support. Guys are clearing pucks and blocking shots."
Indeed, the Hawks are allowing the third-fewest shots per game at 26.5, very close to the 26.2 Crawford and Ray Emery saw last season.
"It's been an effort from everyone every game," Crawford said. "We're getting good support from the forwards and our defense has been great."
But coming off a spectacular playoff run and considering he was questioned at every turn by the international hockey media -- even after a Game 4 victory during the Final itself -- Crawford as much as anyone had a right to be affected by the ridiculously fast turnaround.
Yet, he doesn't look like physically or emotionally drained.
"Not at all," Crawford said. "I think it was such a good summer. I had a lot of fun and was able to enjoy it enough where I was ready to work when it was time to work and get ready again, and I did that.
"There's no excuses. I think all our guys have been professionals about it and approached the summer with a little bit of hunger coming into the season. We were ready for the start, I think."
Well, Crawford looks ready while some of his teammates have yet to find that extra boost of energy, and he says it has nothing to do with trying to make the Olympic team.
"I wouldn't put that kind of pressure on myself," he said. "Honestly, I worry about doing my best for my team and my teammates. I haven't spent any time thinking about the Olympic team."
That would be a waste of Crawford's time, as those decisions are out of his hands and have as much to do with Canadian politics and media bias as anything else.
So Crawford will just keep doing what he's doing, which thus far is playing good in goal and enjoying himself, looking happier and more secure than he has at any point since arriving in Chicago.
"I feel good," he said. "I'll just keep working hard and stay focused on my job, and my job is right here."
And to the surprise of no one in his locker room, he's doing it well again.
•Hear Barry Rozner on WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.